A Maryland state senator and a lobbyist she has accused of harassment both released security camera video Tuesday of their recent encounter in an Annapolis pub, with each declaring the footage proves their version of events.
The video shows lobbyist Gil Genn approaching Sen. Cheryl Kagan (D-Montgomery) near a crowded bar at Castlebay Irish Pub, putting his hand on Kagan’s back and moving it around.
The physical contact is brief, and it is hard to tell exactly when Genn — who previously denied touching Kagan at all — removes his hand.
At a hastily called news conference, Kagan held up her laptop to play the 86-second video, saying it showed how Genn put his hand on her back and slid “it down my body.”
“Most women who are harassed or sexually assaulted will not have access to such undeniable proof,” she said in an interview.
Genn, meanwhile, demanded an apology from Kagan, saying in a statement that the video shows “beyond dispute that I did not grab or grope her.”
“There are four-second frames which show Gil Genn put his hand around her waist while talking to her,” said Genn’s attorney, Tim Maloney. “He does not ‘run his hands down her back’ or ‘touch her tush’ at all — as Senator Kagan claimed.”
It is not clear from the video whether Kagan reacted to the contact with Genn in a negative way, which she has said in interviews that she did. She appears to pull back and avoid eye contact for a few seconds, then continues talking to Genn.
“She does not turn away or otherwise avoid him — as she claimed — but goes on to have a friendly and animated conversation for another 1 minute 21 seconds in which she laughs, gives him a thumbs up and appears engaged,” Maloney said.
The dueling accounts escalated a debate over workplace sexual harassment has that burst into public view in Maryland’s capital in recent weeks, triggering conversations in State House hallways and offices about when a touch can be considered inappropriate.
During her news conference, Kagan called Genn — who served 12 years in the House of Delegates before becoming a lobbyist — a “serial harasser,” saying other women have told her stories about him since she publicly accused him earlier this month. She did not name those women or provide specific details.
Kagan, a first-term senator who served in the House from 1995 to 2003, also said Genn inappropriately touched her stomach during a conversation in a State House meeting room while they were both delegates in the late 1990s.
Maloney said Genn “completely denies” having stroked Kagan’s stomach years ago.
“He hasn’t been in the House of Delegates for 18 years and he has been with Cheryl Kagan hundreds of times since, and never once has she complained about this. It didn’t happen,” Maloney said.
He called Kagan’s statement that she has heard from other women who say they were harassed by Genn “character assassination.”
“When and where did this supposedly happen?” Maloney said.
Kagan filed a formal complaint against Genn in connection with their March 1 encounter at Castlebay, in which she says the lobbyist put his hand on her back and “ran it down my back to my tush.”
In a statement days later, Genn strongly denied the allegation, saying he “kept his hands to myself” and spoke to Kagan for only about 10 seconds, while holding a coat and umbrella.
“I did not run my hand down her back or down to her tush,” the statement said. “And I especially and consciously avoided the all-too-common Annapolis legislative ‘hug’ many legislators use to greet one another. I did none of that in my very brief encounter with Senator Kagan. I am 100 percent certain of these facts.”
The security camera video shows their conversation lasted well over a minute. Genn does not appear to be holding anything.
On Tuesday, Maloney sent a new statement from Genn, in which he acknowledges placing his hand on Kagan’s back “for a few seconds” but denies doing anything inappropriate.
Kagan said hundreds of people have thanked her in person or on social media for coming forward with her allegations at a time when Maryland lawmakers are trying to decide how best to address sexual harassment complaints.
But she said there are others who have questioned whether the incident took place.
“Some people doubt your honesty; some made comments on my looks and possible sexual orientation,” she said. “But I’m glad I spoke out.”
As part of her complaint to the legislature, Kagan said, she plans to provide the video to the General Assembly’s director of Human Resources, which is the office in the State House designated to track and handle sexual harassment complaints.
But the legislature’s anti-harassment policy does not include adjudicating claims against lobbyists, whose conduct is governed by the Maryland State Ethics Commission. The Ethics Commission does not investigate claims of sexual harassment.
Del. Ariana B. Kelly (D-Montgomery), president of the Women Legislators of Maryland caucus, has proposed legislation that would provide a process for dealing with allegations involving lobbyists and require an independent investigator to handle some complaints.
Kelly — who has publicly written about her own experiences with workplace harassment — said Tuesday she is hopeful that the General Assembly will move forward with legislation to address those issues.
“That’s what’s in the best interest of all the parties involved,” she said.